Open-Ended vs. Close-Ended Questions (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 13, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you collect feedback or collect data at work, you may ask past or potential customer questions. There are two types of questions, open-ended and close-ended, which both have different uses. Learning more about these types of questions can help you create an interview or survey that suits your needs. In this article, we explain what open-ended vs. close-ended questions are, discuss the differences between the two,

Open-ended vs. close-ended questions

To learn about the differences between open-ended vs. close-ended questions, discovering the definition of each type first is beneficial. Here's an explanation of open-ended and close-ended questions to help:

What are open-ended questions?

Open-ended questions are questions that allow for detailed, explanatory answers. Instead of answering with a pre-written answer like "yes," or "no," open-ended questions allow the participant to write a fully customized response. These kinds of questions can be as short as a few sentences or as long as multiple paragraphs.

Related: Open-Ended Interview Questions (With Tips and Example Answers)

What are close-ended questions?

Close-ended questions are questions that allow the participant to choose between multiple pre-written answers. Researchers can use close-ended questions to learn specific information from participants by providing only a narrow range of answers from which to choose. Close-ended questions come in many forms, such as:

  • Multiple-choice

  • Drop-down menu

  • Check box selection

  • Rank order selection

Related: What are 360 Feedback Questions? (Forms, Benefits, and Tips)

How are open-ended questions and close-ended questions different?

The type of question you choose to ask depends on the information you want to receive. Here are the main differences between open-ended and close-ended questions to help you decide which one suits your needs:

Context

Answers can result in either more or less context depending on the questions you ask. For example, if a teacher asks each student a close-ended question about which ice cream flavour is their favourite, the teacher may receive less context than if they asked an open-ended question. If the teacher gave the students choices that don't include their favourite flavour in a close-answered question, the students may not be able to give genuine opinions.

Related: Informational Interview Questions

Format

Open-ended and close-ended questions typically follow different formats. Open-ended questions may start with words like how, why, where, and what to obtain more information about a person's opinions. They may also include multiple sentences to gather additional information, such as:

  • What did you think about our new cheeseburger? Would you recommend it to a friend?

  • How do you feel about our new website design? Is there anything you would change?

  • How did you hear about our spa services? If a current member referred you, you can receive a discount by using their referral code.

  • How was your online shopping experience? Is there anything that could have made it better?

Close-ended questions typically start with words and phrases like do you, how often, have, will, did, and how much. As these questions have pre-written answers, they typically ask a single question, such as:

  • Do you enjoy using this website?

  • How often do you use this social media platform a day?

  • Did you receive a welcome e-mail from your professor this week?

  • Will you be attending the Christmas party next month?

  • How much time do you spend online each day?

Related: 10 Strategic Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Speed

Open-ended questions may take longer for participants to answer. This is because close-ended questions offer a set of answers for participants to choose from, so they may answer these questions more quickly. For example, it may take only a few minutes to ask a group of people a close-ended question about their favourite season, whereas it may take longer to ask the same group an open-ended question about the same subject if they also choose to explain their answer.

Additionally, since researchers can categorize close-ended answers into groups, they may be able to gather and present results quickly. Researching and analyzing open-ended question results may take longer due to the time it may take to read, understand, and document answers.

Related: Clarifying Questions to Ask for Better Communication

Medium

Open and close-ended questions have different answer formats, so researchers can optimize them for different mediums. For example, a professor can create a mobile poll asking questions about their students' note-taking habits. Close-ended multiple-choice questions can easily work on a mobile device, while some open-ended questions may have answers too long to type conveniently on a smartphone. Here are some situations in which you might use open- or close-ended questions:

Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions may work well for the following kinds of mediums:

  • Desktop websites: Desktop websites where participants usually have a full keyboard available may make answering open-ended questions easier. A desktop website may allow participants to save and edit their answers more conveniently.

  • Speeches: Recruiters commonly use open-ended questions in interview settings to get detailed responses from candidates. Depending on the question, spoken answers may help gain more knowledge about a person, their skills and general speaking ability.

  • Essay papers: If a question is complex, answering on multiple pages may be more convenient than a mobile screen or notecard. Allowing the participant to have as much space as possible to write their ideas can help them fully document detailed answers.

Close-ended questions

Close-ended questions may work more effectively in these mediums:

  • Notecards: Close-ended answers can be as simple as picking one of two responses, which can make notecards effective for handling yes or no questions. The responses are typically easy to understand and concise.

  • Mobile devices: As close-ended questions don't require written answers, mobile survey apps may be an effective way to ask questions to large groups. Additionally, some survey apps offer optimized ways to review answers or present close-ended question results in graphs or charts.

Related: What Is Mobile Marketing? (Components and Best Practices)

Application

Open-ended questions require original responses from your participant, so they can help a surveyor gain a broader sense of a customer's thoughts and feelings. For example, if you want to know how your customers feel about the new design of your website, offering an open-ended question allows each customer to explain what they like and dislike and why. Additionally, open-ended questions can be effective when gathering research data because they allow participants to write their own opinions with relatively few limitations.

Close-ended questions ask for specific answers from your audience, which can make them useful for asking about product features or preferences. For example, you can use a close-ended question to ask customers whether they like your website's new quick sign-in feature. Additionally, because answers to close-ended surveys are pre-written, these questions can help gather a limited, more focused range of data. Surveys with these questions can also be effective for recording high volumes of responses.

Related: What Is a Mobile-Friendly Website? (With Features)

Examples of open-ended questions

Here are some examples of open-ended questions:

  • What's your favourite season? Why?

  • Why did you choose to shop with us today?

  • What's your preferred method of transportation to and from work?

  • Where did you go to high school?

  • How would your manager or coworkers describe you?

  • Did any sales associates help you today? How was your experience with them?

  • What was your favourite memory from last year?

  • How was your experience with our updated website?

  • What are the specials tonight?

  • What are your goals for the future?

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • What is the most difficult decision you had to make?

  • What accomplishments are you proud of?

Related: 45 Open-Ended Questions for Sales Professionals (With Tips)

Examples of close-ended questions

Here are some examples of close-ended questions:

  • How many cups of water do you drink a day?

  • Do you take the bus, walk, or drive to work?

  • Would you recommend this product to a friend?

  • How often do you use this moisturizer during the week?

  • Did you find what you were looking for in our store today?

  • Who made this poster?

  • Do you have experience in this industry?

  • Did you complete all your assignments this week?

  • Are you interested in signing up for our rewards program?


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